This week, I found myself ruminating over where I belong in this world.
What’s my tribe?
Who are my people?
What group do I belong to?
It was a strange feeling to experience since I’m already blessed with the deepest and most beautiful friendships, the most loving relationships, and thanks to my travels, a community of friends, peers, and clients scattered across the globe.
In one sense, I belong everywhere.
In another sense, I belong nowhere.
I think part of this feeling comes from a year in lockdowns and the inability to be part of big family gatherings or fitness communities or co-working spaces. The one thing I became aware of with gyms being closed is how much community we feel from gyms. Even last year, pre-pandemic, I volunteered on Saturday mornings at a local spin studio. Purely for the sense of community and being around like-minded women. Before then, I had Crossfit. Before then, I had gymnastics. I always had a fitness identity and, as a byproduct, a place to belong.
Another part of this feeling comes from leaving Shopify. I’m no longer surrounded by the same people everyday and I’m no longer travelling to partner events to geek out on website design. Many of the defining aspects of being an entrepreneur have been taken away with covid—the travel, the freedom, the networking. I haven’t been able to fully immerse into this new identity yet—as an entrepreneur—here in Ottawa, so maybe that’s why I feel like I’m on my own planet for now?
Then yet another part of this feeling comes from not having left Ottawa in over a year. I am a child of this world, not of Ottawa. Travelling to Europe doesn’t just fill up my boujee heart (although I cannot wait for my first sip of rosé in Provence!), it also fills up my cultural cup. After all, I’m a Third Culture Kid. I’m not purely Lithuanian, nor am I purely Canadian—I’m my own hybrid culture of Lithuanian-Canadian.
The more I’ve sat on this thought, the more I’ve started to realize that I never really belonged anywhere. In Canada, I identified fully as Lithuanian, but when visiting Lithuania, I was always “the Canadian”. It was only when I moved to Malaysia in my twenties that I finally started blending my two identities. I had to. When I introduced myself as just Lithuanian, there was confusion about my perfect English or my “friendly Canadian” nature. When I introduced myself as just Canadian, there was confusion about my name and European mindset and mannerisms.
I belong to both nations, but at the same time, I don’t fully belong to either.
As I’ve been sitting in these thoughts more and more this week, a new idea has begun to form: what if belonging isn’t something I want to aspire to?!
From what I can see, belonging seems to favour complacency.
Actually, it seems to punish growth.
Sure, if my family had never left Lithuania I would have a pure national identity.
Sure, if I had never quit Shopify I would still belong to that group.
But my life is absolutely richer for having grown beyond those communities.
Maybe it’s as simple as flipping the script on what I was telling myself: instead of avoiding being someone who belongs everywhere out of fear of belonging nowhere, I should strive to belong nowhere because it will lead me to belong everywhere.
Isn’t that a much more freeing thought?
The best part of knowing I’m writing a newsletter each week is that it gives me permission to go deep on a thought I’m struggling with. Not just to gloss over the topic, but to see if there’s a lesson or growth that can come out of it.
So then I ponder, I talk, I learn, I ruminate.
One podcast leads me to another podcast that leads me to an article that leads me to an interview with Maya Angelou that leads me to a quote from Brené Brown that I feel is the nugget of wisdom I had been searching for:
“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
What a magical thought that true belonging comes from being so authentically yourself that you’re not afraid to stand alone in the wilderness!
When we confuse belonging with fitting in, we lose ourselves. The currency of fitting in is fear. Fear of your belonging being revoked from the group. Fear of being cancelled. Fear of saying the wrong thing. Fear of thinking the wrong way.
Perhaps we’ve had the wrong definition of belonging this whole time.
Perhaps the year 2020 happened in order to show us that our desire for belonging was nothing more than a disguised aptitude for exclusion.
True belonging doesn’t exclude.
True belonging can’t be revoked.
It feels trivial now to have ruminated all week over where I belong when most of the places I have ever belonged were a temporary station. I’m also starting to realize that the desire to belong is nothing more than a desire for an invisible guidebook for how to live life. The cookie-cutter-social-norms to squeeze ourselves into, so we can feel like we’re doing it right.
As a lifelong rebellious spirit, this irks me! How could I have been craving belonging when belonging signifies fitting in? *shocked wonder*
If I hadn’t stopped to really inspect the root of these feelings, would I have continued my search for a community to immerse myself into? Values to take on? A pre-written checklist for what success looks like?
As Maya Angelou said, “You only are free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all”.
Have I just uncovered the first (of many) entrepreneurial booby traps?! The Universe testing my desire of building my unique life path?
As much as I have broken free from the social conditioning around me, there are still places where I’m an unsuspecting marionette, dancing to the rhythm of the bubble I live in. The only way out, I’m starting to see, is continuing to build my intuition—in other words, my belonging to myself.
And the beauty of belonging to myself? I can start belonging here today—with or without a lockdown, with or without a company, with or without travel.
Wherever I go, however I grow, as long as I believe in myself so deeply that I can share my most authentic self with the world, I will always belong.
And so, I’ve decided that instead of searching for a bubble to belong to, I will celebrate belonging to the seven billion strong community that I’m already a part of.
And aren’t we the best crew?!
(Except for aunt Karen…)